By Dan King
For a small town, there is always something to do as a cop in Whitehall.
At 9:30 a.m. Monday, when I arrived at the Whitehall Village Police Station, Patrolman Joel Archambault was looking through records.
Fifteen minutes later, Archambault and I ventured out of the station to what he referred to as his “office,” police cruiser No. 172.
Archambault was ready to patrol the streets of Whitehall, a regular occurrence for the village police. Only two sheriff’s deputies are assigned to the northern part of Washington County, including Whitehall, Granville and Fort Edward; and one state trooper is assigned to Whitehall, Hampton and North Granville.
Archambault said the closest assistance he ordinarily has is 15 minutes away, which often leaves him as the only one responding to incidents in Whitehall.
On larger calls or “hot calls,” village police will get help from the state, county or an off-duty Whitehall officer, but we had no such calls on Monday.
Things got exciting two minutes after we left the police station.
Stopped at the intersection of Williams Street and Route 4, we observed a truck traveling west on Route 4. The truck ran the red light, slightly after it turned, and Archambault turned the lights on to pull the vehicle over.
The truck driver told Archambault “the light changed faster than I could move my feet.”
While pulling over the truck, Archambault saw that the vehicle also had a brake light out.
The driver was cooperative with Archambault, who took that into account as well as the fact that he was not speeding, he had valid identification, registration and insurance and he didn’t cause any accidents.
Archambault gave the man a warning, but added: “If I see him with that brake light still out next week, I’m going to have to issue him a ticket.”
Next up on the patrol was to check out the area around Potter Street, because recently a burglary had occurred there. Someone had stolen copper pipes from the basement of a house that is for sale on Potter Street.
“When something like that happens, we like to up our patrol in that area,” Archambault said.
Archambault checked for footprints in the snow and to see if any doors were unlocked or opened. The building was deemed secure, which Archambault attributes to the increased patrol in that area.
“Once people see an increased police presence there, it is a good deterrent to stop them from doing something else,” he said.
Continuing patrol, we covered as far north as the South Bay Bridge and as far south as the McDonald’s parking lot, as both have been annexed to village jurisdiction.
Around 10 a.m. we began heading north toward Dresden and noticed a southbound vehicle that didn’t have a registration sticker.
“Usually that’s a sign that the car either isn’t registered or it’s stolen from a dealer,” Archambault said.
We turned around and pulled the vehicle over; after the driver found the sticker, he was told to attach it to the vehicle and no tickets were issued.
Archambault said that indicators such as the missing sticker, a missing inspection, a seat belt violation or the use of a cell phone are helpful in stopping drug crimes.
“If we see a car leaving a known drug house there is almost always something we can pull them over for,” he said. “We don’t do that kind of thing to everyone, discretion is key.”
Although a normal day for village police is about 50 percent patrol and 50 percent calls, this day was heavy on patrol.
At about 11 a.m. we set up shop on Williams Street, enforcing the stop signs at the intersection of Williams and Saunders Streets.
Again, discretion was key.
A few vehicles came to rolling stops, with nobody around, and properly used their turn signals. Archambault determined those weren’t worth the trouble.
However, at 11:15 a.m., a Ford SUV traveling on Williams Street approached the intersection, and the driver wasn’t wearing a seatbelt, didn’t come to a complete stop and failed to use a turn signal.
Archambault pulled out from being nestled out of view and began to follow the vehicle. At the intersection of Saunders Street and Broadway, with the police car right behind him, the driver again failed to use a turn signal. At that point Archambault flipped on the lights.
After initially proceeding for quite a while, the man finally pulled over for Archambault.
The two had a lengthy discussion. When Archambault returned to his car to print the tickets, the man got out of his vehicle. Archambault popped back up to his feet, demanding that the man get back in his vehicle. The man argued, saying he had dropped his glove out of his window and was retrieving it.
“I’ve already given him two warnings about getting out of his car now, if he gets out again I’ll issue him another ticket for obstructing,” Archambault said.
As Archambault was demanding the man get back in his car, a man stopped his vehicle on Broadway and began to talk to Archambault, saying that there was a tractor trailer with missing tires on Route 4.
Archambault told the man he would look into it after his traffic stop was completely.
That was a dangerous situation, Archambault said.
“I have a guy out of his car, which is how many officers get hurt, and now I’ve got a guy talking to me and distracting me,” he said.
The man who was pulled over was ultimately issued two tickets.
At noon, there was one last traffic stop on Broadway.
A man was seen driving on Broadway with no inspection sticker or front license plate. The vehicle turned out to be the driver’s cousin’s and he was issued a ticket for the missing inspection.
At 12:30 p.m. Archambault got a call to respond to a lockout at Skenesborough Gardens. Archambault assisted with the lockout, before returning to the station to file the daily activity report.
“People want reasons to shut down a small village PD,” Archambault said. “But when we are doing things and helping out at public access buildings, it kind of validates what we do.”
After returning to the station, Archambault continued investigating and placing phone calls regarding an ongoing investigation of a child welfare case on Adams Street. He delved into hundreds of pages of documents relating to the case, as he closed out the final hour and 15 minutes of his shift.
He said that was a pretty average shift for the 6 a.m. to 2 p.m. shift; he added that the 2 p.m. to 10 p.m. shift revolves mainly around responding to calls for domestic disputes and other things of that nature; and the 10 p.m. to 6 a.m. shift tends to cover making sure that the village is secure.